Here at Cheese Grotto, we’re all about giving you the knowledge you need to buy, store, eat, and enjoy great cheese. We have decades of experience as cheesemongers, cheesemakers, and cheese eaters to share, so we figured we’d bring it all together in one big guide on how to live your best cheese life!
If you’re a budding cheese connoisseur, this guide is a great place to start leveling up your cheese game. Even if you’re a seasoned connoisseur with a Grotto of your own stuffed full of amazing wedges, we bet you’ll learn something new about your favorite food.
How to Shop for Cheese
Knowing which cheeses to buy, whether for a tasting party or just for snacking, can feel like a challenge. With so many styles, from mild types like cottage cheese to funky blue-veined cheeses, how do you know which cheese to purchase?
Luckily, it’s easier than ever to shop for artisan cheese, whether you’re looking at the supermarket or shopping online.
How to Buy Cheese at a Cheese Shop
Hitting up a dedicated cheese shop—or a specialty store, food co-op, or gourmet grocer with a dedicated cheese counter—is one of the best ways to source great cheese and get an education, too.
Cut-to-order shops typically offer samples, which can be a great way to broaden your cheese horizons. A staffed counter also gives you the chance to ask the cheesemonger questions about different varieties in their case. Don’t be shy—it’s their job to guide you to the perfect wedge!
How to Buy Cheese at the Grocery Store
If there’s no cheese shop in your area, you can still pick up quality cheese at a variety of price points. Some supermarket chains, like Whole Foods and Wegmans, feature staffed cheese counters, while others, like Trader Joe’s, offer a wide variety of pre-cut wheels.
Fresh, cut-to-order pieces are generally better quality, but pre-cuts will do in a pinch. The same goes for cheeses you might use for cooking or baking, like parmesan. You’ll get better flavor and a longer shelf life if you buy a hunk and grate it yourself, but pre-shredded or pre-grated work too.
If you don’t have one of these stores nearby, look for the specialty cheese case at your local grocer. It’s often a wide, open-topped cooler or circular display separate from the dairy case (which is where you’ll find items like block cheddars and bags of pre-sliced and pre-shredded cheeses).
How to Buy Cheese Online
No matter what kind of in-person shopping options are available to you, you can still buy tons of amazing cheese online. Peruse our online cheese shop, where we sell a variety of cow, goat, and sheep milk cheeses sourced directly from American artisan cheesemakers. It’s easy to filter styles based on your preferences, and you can purchase individual pieces or buy bundles that show off several styles from a single maker.
If you like surprises catered around your favorite cheese types, consider signing up for our monthly or quarterly artisan cheese subscription. Every month or every three months, you’ll receive a different cheese or bundle of cheeses from a different artisan. We’ll send you a cheese preferences survey when you sign up, so you’ll be sure to enjoy each box while broadening your palate.
As you’re shopping, you might wonder: Are some cheeses healthier than others? Contrary to popular belief, cheese isn’t unhealthy. But depending on your needs (or the needs of those you’re serving), some cheeses may work better than others. Learn how to build a healthy cheese plate.
How to Store Cheese
Proper cheese storage is the best way to keep your investment tasting great for longer. The Cheese Grotto is designed just for this purpose—keeping your cheeses fresh for up to three weeks in the fridge and seven days on the counter, no cheese paper or plastic wrap needed.
For more on how to store cheese, check out our Ultimate Guide to Cheese Storage. And if you’re ready to take your cheese storage to the next level, check out the four Cheese Grotto models in our online store.
How to Pair Cheese
When we teach virtual tastings, people always ask questions about pairing and serving cheese. Folks want to know things like how to eat burrata cheese with wine, or how to eat Brie cheese on a charcuterie board. They even ask which jam to pair with cream cheese.
While finding the right pairing might seem like some kind of complicated calculus, it’s actually really easy: the correct pairing is the one you like! Sensory experiences like smell and taste are so subjective that there is no “right” answer.
To get you started, though, we’ve got some handy guidelines for pairing right here. We’ve also published a ton of pairing guides with tips for how to combine cheese with beer, wine, spirits, tea, chocolate, and honey as well as pairing ideas broken down by season.
How to Eat Cheese
There are a ton of different ways to eat cheese: sliced, melted, crumbled, grated, baked, even grilled. And of course, we all love snacks like cheese and crackers and bountiful, colorful cheese boards stuffed with accompaniments.
But when you meet a new artisan cheese for the first time—or when you want to really enjoy and think about its flavors and textures, as in a “formal” cheese tasting—you can follow a set of steps to get the most bang for your cheese dollar. Our How to Taste Cheese Like a Pro post includes detailed instructions for using your senses to get the most out of your favorite cheeses.
How to Host a Cheese Tasting
Now that you’ve got the knowledge, it’s time to put it into action by inviting a small group of your cheese-loving friends over for a little tasting party.
Gather your cheeses and accompaniments.
Hit up your local cheese counter, farmers’ market, or gourmet shop and pick up a selection of cheeses, accompaniments, and beverages using the tips in this guide.
We recommend a mix of styles: something mild and creamy, like chevre or fromage blanc; a savory, hard cheese like a clothbound cheddar or Alpine style; and something pungent, like a whiffy washed-rind cheese or peppery, salty blue. In our opinion, the best cheeses for a tasting are artisan wheels—it’s best to skip your everyday snack or utility cheeses like string cheese and cottage cheese when you’re building a cheese board.
Plan on four ounces of cheese per person if you’re serving other snacks, or eight ounces per person if cheese is the main event. It’s a good idea to have palate cleansers like grapes, sparkling water, and plain crackers or bread on hand so you can reset between cheeses.
Don’t want to leave the house? We can ship everything right to your door. Our cheese tasting box even includes all the accompaniments you need for a delicious soiree.
Get your tasting supplies together.
In addition to serving ware—small plates, spoons, cheese knives—you’ll want some boards or platters to display your cheeses on, and maybe some small bowls or other vessels for the accompaniments (you can also just keep it simple and leave items like jams, pickles, and honeys in their jars). You can even build a cheese board into your Grotto.
Think about how you’ll identify your cheeses, too. It’s a good idea to include info like name, milk type, producer, region, and whether the cheese is made with raw or pasteurized milk.
You can save the labels from the wrapping and stick them next to the cheese, or you can buy cheese sign holders for this exact purpose. We like using a dark slate board like our Circular Serving Slate, which you can write on with washable soapstone chalk. You can even label our Writable Black Resin Cheese Knives with their corresponding cheeses so your guests don’t get them mixed up.
You’ll also want to provide paper and pens for your guests to take notes and record their impressions. We have a handy cheese tasting workbook you can print out.
Prepare your cheeses on the big day.
At least an hour before start time, you’ll want to remove your cheeses (or your Grotto) from the fridge so your cheeses can come up to room temperature—a super important step that’s sometimes forgotten when eating cheese.
Doing this lets you fully enjoy the flavors, textures, and aromas of your cheese, which becomes hard, waxy, and bland at cold temperatures. Larger pieces will need more time, so plan accordingly.
Dig in and have fun!
After you’ve welcomed your guests and poured some drinks, it’s time to taste! If you like, you can introduce your guests to the tasting steps we’ve outlined above with the first cheese, then proceed through the other options from mildest to strongest.
Of course, it’s a party, so the vibe should be fun and relaxed—if your guests aren’t interested in sensory analysis or taking notes, don’t stress. The whole point is to enjoy yourselves and some amazing cheese, so as long as that happens, your party will be a success!
How to Cook With Cheese
Maybe you have some leftovers from that tasting party, or you’re just excited to experiment with cheese in your cooking. We have a ton of amazing recipes in our archives for you to peruse! Here are some of our favorites.
Breakfast and Brunch Recipes With Cheese
- Spring Frittata
- Whipped Honey Goat Cheese and Fresh Berries
- Cheese and Urfa Pepper Omelette
Lunch Recipes With Cheese
- Mozzarella, Roasted Peach, and Tomato Caprese Salad
- Tomato-Watermelon Gazpacho With Creme Fraiche
- BLT With Pimento Cheese and Pickled Jalapenos
- Beet Steak Burgers With Goat Cheese
Dinner Recipes With Cheese
- Decadent Truffle Goat Cheese Pasta
- Roast Chicken With Grilled Halloumi, Lentils, and Spinach
- Slow-Baked Golden Ricotta With Spring Vegetables
- Creme Fraiche Mushroom Risotto
Dessert Recipes With Cheese
- Cherry Lime Pie Popsicles With Creme Fraiche
- Peaches & Creme Fraiche Pops
- Grilled Figs Stuffed With Goat Cheese
Now you’re ready to make some fresh, seasonal, and delicious recipes that show off what great cheese and cultured dairy can do in the kitchen.
What other burning cheese questions do you have? Tag us @cheesegrotto on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and let us know!
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